By PETCHANET PRATRUANGKRAI
The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking together with eight fishery-related associations yesterday reported on the progress of the operations of the private sector in solving IUU issues throughout their supply chains.
Poj Aramwattananont, chairman of the Thai Fishery Producers Coalition (TFPC), said Thailand should be upgraded by the EU after its serious attempts to tackle fishery-related problems over the past 10 months.
“If the country continues with the yellow card, it may be because the EU needs time to see the outcome of our efforts. Through actions by the government and private enterprises, we have done a lot and will continue to solve the problems to ensure sustainable growth of the industry,” Poj said.
He added that despite the yellow card, fishery trading had not been affected, as foreign buyers were still confident in the Thai industry’s production quality and sanitary standards.
The volume of Thai fishery exports last year increased, but value decreased because of the global trading slowdown, and not because of the IUU accusations, Poj said.
He added that export of fishery products this year should increase as the global economy recovers and some markets strengthen.
The EU will send officials to make a final evaluation for Thailand from January 18-24. The result of their inspection is to be announced in February.
Poj said that during the past 10 months, every sector of the industry had confirmed its cooperation and support of all the policies and activities of the government. Every trade association has amended its operations in accordance with the rules, regulations and policy set by the government to create sustainable development and build the confidence that IUU fishing should be eliminated as soon as possible.
From now on, the industry claims, fishery practices will be in accordance with world standards and there will be no risk of raw materials derived from IUU fishing contaminating the production chain. This means ensuring traceability and eliminating child labour, human trafficking, and worker exploitation.
Mongkol Sukcharoenkana, vice chairman of the National Fisheries Association of Thailand, said it was confident that the EU would not downgrade Thailand or issue a “red card”. The government and private enterprises had been serious about not only solving the problems but going beyond the EU’s requirements to ensure sustainable development of the fishing industry.
During the past 10 months, the TFPC, eight associations, and private enterprises have undertaken many actions such as declaring their policies and speeding up their support for their members to do everything correctly in accordance with the law, policy and government orders, the industry claims.
Each trade association has declared that its members must adhere strictly to the Fisheries Act 2015 and not buy raw materials from fishing boats or supplies that do not comply with the law. If found to be guilty of human trafficking, members will be banned and thus unable to export their products.
Thailand has also allowed the International Labour Organisation in cooperation with the Labour Ministry to educate all trade-association members on good labour practices and how to implement them.
Enterprises have also cooperated with various human-rights organisations both at home and abroad in educating their members and ensuring that their practices comply with the Labour Relations Act, as well as funding such activities as building schools, offering scholarships, hiring teachers and holding training seminars.
The industry says it has also cooperated fully with government agencies to implement traceability control for types of products.
The fish-farming sector will need certificates for moving aquatic animals, and the catching sector must hold Marine Catch Purchasing Documents. The import and export sectors of all types of fishing must have documentation that can be verified and traced back.
Moreover, the industry says it supports the government in tackling IUU fishing in accordance with international principles, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, along with the domestic Fisheries Act and the National Marine Fisheries Management Policy.
Finally, each association has conducted a survey and corrected its weaknesses throughout the production chain in order to ensure that IUU fishing and violations of the Fisheries Act and labour law do not occur. For example, the Thai Frozen Food Association and the Thai Tuna Industry Association have cancelled the use of peeling sheds outside the plants operated by their members.